The flaw in the traditional call opening is the view that building rapport is something you establish in the first few minutes with the client, then you move on to the business at hand.
You begin to establish rapport (good or bad) the minute the client opens the door. The difference is you must continue to work on building trust and maintaining rapport throughout the interview and even after the sale.
There are a number of key skills you must develop to successfully open the call with the long-term care insurance prospect:
First Impressions: As the expression goes, you never have another chance to make a first impression. Once that initial impression is formed when you meet the prospect, you will have to work very hard to change it. Fortunately, you can follow a very simple list of “do’s” and “don’ts” to improve your first impressions.
Conversational skills: These skills are critical to selling long-term care insurance. Most prospects for this product have already lived a long life and have a wide variety of interests. Your ability to relate to them and talk comfortably about what interests them goes a long way towards building trust.
Listening skills: The one skill we all need to improve in all our relationships is listening. Far too often, we are planning what we are going to say next instead of paying attention to what the prospect is saying. This non-verbal behavior tells the prospect that we don’t value their thoughts and feelings, destroying trust and making a sale virtually impossible.
Although our ability to ask effective questions is essential throughout the interview, we begin asking questions immediately upon opening the call. As you will learn later, how well we transition from the initial discussion to the prospect’s “agenda” for the meeting is a key step in determining the success of the call.
Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.
First Impressions Checklist
|Dress professionally||Dress casually|
|Stand tall, with your head straight and shoulders pulled back||Walk in slouching|
|Look the prospect in the eye! Establish eye contact immediately and hold for a few seconds||Avoid the prospect’s eyes or dart your eyes around the room|
|Introduce yourself and acknowledge their introduction using Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Repeat their name until you get it right!||Assume you can call them by their first name or pronounce their name incorrectly|
|Smile, but don’t overdo it or fake it||Forget to smile|
|Shake hands firmly.
If you are male, initiate the handshake with a male. Wait for the female to offer her hand.
If you are female, initiate with a male. You should also wait for the female to offer her hand.
|Give a gorilla handshake or a dead fish handshake.
Fail to respect the client’s age and choice on physical contact!
|Make generic observations.||Jump right into specifics or topics you don’t understand|
You must become an expert at “small talk.”
CNN Talk Show Superstar Larry King suggest the best talkers have the following in common:
They look at things from a new angle, taking unexpected points of view on familiar subjects.
They have broad horizons. They think about, and talk about, a wide range of issues and experiences beyond their daily lives.
They are enthusiastic, displaying a passion for what they are doing with their lives and an interest in what you’re saying to them at that moment.
They don’t talk about themselves all of the time.
They are curious. They ask “Why?” They want to know more about what you’re telling them.
They empathize. They try to put themselves in your place, to relate to what you’re saying.
They have a sense of humor, and they don’t mind using it on themselves. In fact, the best conversationalists frequently tell stories about themselves.
They have their own style of talking.[i]
[i] King, Larry, How to talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1988) p.15.
Communicate to people that you really care about them as people, rather than as buyers of your product.
The ability to listen well is absolutely vital to success in all human relationships. The ability to be a good listener is perhaps the most critical skill of selling. The benefits of good listening include building trust, lowering resistance, building self-esteem for the prospect and building character and self-discipline for the sales person. Brian Tracy has identified four basic listening skills each sales person must master:
Pause before replying.
Question for clarification.
If you want to influence someone, you first need to understand them. You can not do that with technique alone. Your real influence is determined by your actual conduct. Stephen Covey has identified the following principle as the most important key to interpersonal communication:
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.[ii]
Covey also suggests “you have two ears and one mouth; use them accordingly.” In opening the call, the ratio of speaking to listening is even greater – you should listen four times as much as you speak. In other words, 80% of your time in opening the call should be spent listening.
Listen carefully to what the customer suggests they are willing to talk about. DO NOT “jump in” and just bring something up for conversation.
Talking is sharing, but listening is caring.
[i] Tracy, Brian, The Psychology of Selling, (IL: Nightingale-Conant, 1985, p.133-138)
[ii] Covey, Stephen; (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1989, p. 237-238.